LG GD900 Crystal preview: First look
S-Class under the microscope
We've already tried the LG S-class user interface in our LG Arena review and LG Viewty Smart preview and we are pleased with the snappiness and visuals of the new thumbable UI. The LG Crystal runs the same S-class thing and is identical to what we saw on its LG siblings with one exception - the LG GD900 Crystal has a refreshing new white interface theme that its forerunners lacked.
"If it's not broken, don't try to fix it": LG seem to know this well - the visuals of the interface remain familiar, but still spectacular - everything from homescreen to dropdown menus rolls, sweeps in, unfolds and revolves extra smoothly with a responsiveness that implies some heavy graphics acceleration. But you should already know that.
Here's a quick video walkthrough of what the LG GD900 Crystal is all about. Make sure to turn the HD mode on.
For those of you who missed our previous articles about the Arena and the Viewty Smart we'll throw in a quick overview of the S-Class UI.
There are four homescreens and they break down the homescreen UI to four easily manageable chunks: widgets, contacts, shortcuts and multimedia.
No matter which homescreen you choose the UI never skimps on eye candy - smooth animations, reflections, 3D spatial effects, motion blurring - it's all there for your viewing pleasure.
Not very practical, but surely eye catching, interface feature is the Cube. The Cube is an interactive 3D element that has the four aforementioned homescreens at its sides. Selecting a side, zooms it in nice and smooth until it fills the screen.
To start the Cube interface, you only need to press the dedicated central key - just like the LG Arena.
You can use the hardware keyboard to scroll through the different homescreens, just as you can do on the display.
The Crystal main menu is accessible via the dedicated shortcut on the home screen. It has the already familiar layout of four rows of menu items, which are scrollable horizontally. That way almost all menu items are simultaneously accessible without jumping from tab to tab. This time the menu theme is white, with circular thumbnails reminding of bubbles.
Of course, for those who prefer the Arena/Viewty Smart menu theme, there is an option to change it.
As expected, if you turn the phone sideways, the menu items are all visualized with smaller icons fitting the screen perfectly with no need for scrolling (but with no text labels either).
LG Crystal has a multitasking menu (a basic task manager). The active apps are displayed by their respective icons bouncing up and down in smooth animation. To start the multitasking menu, you need to keep the Cube launcher key pressed for a bit longer.
LG decided to extend the basic functionality of the task manager with the "Gesture shortcuts". When you choose this option you'll have near 20 predefined shortcut-moves, which you can assign to different applications in the multitasking menu.
In our pre-production unit we found that the particular gestures are recognized only when they are made on the glass keyboard. On the screen they just don't work. We're not really sure whether that should be the default behavior. Anyway having touch gestures is a very useful option for starting the applications you use the most. Not to mention, it looks extra cool (in a geeky way) to start applications with gestures instead of the old-fashioned way.
If you want to see how gesture control works, check out our hands-on video embedded on this page.
Inputting text climbs up the next level
Quite naturally, the LG GD900 Crystal offers an onscreen alphanumeric keypad in portrait orientation and a landscape QWERTY thumboard. The QWERTY keys are smallish but each symbol you tap is clearly marked by iPhone-style pop-ups.
Truth be told we got used to typing on the QWERTY keyboard quite fast despite repeated criticism by many users. More than often it's even more accurate than the iPhone when used on a daily basis.
Moving your cursor through the text is also a breeze. You can either tap on place of the screen where you want your cursor or, if you need more precision, a longer press over the cursor activates a virtual loupe that allows you to move it around more accurately character by character (think iPhone style). Copying and pasting is always available.
But hey, don't forget the nice and illuminated glass-made keypad. When you slide it while typing, the onscreen keyboard disappears and you're welcome to use the hardware one.
The first time is quite unusual because it's like typing with the virtual numeric keypad, but it's not virtual at all. And of course, the blue lights surrounding the whole thing are a feast both for your eyes and the crowd around you.